The chase for the College Football Playoffs is hitting the home stretch. Three weekends of games separate four teams from reaching the ultimate goal in the sport.
Last week did next to nothing in shifting that landscape as Oklahoma was the only top-10 team to tumble. Honestly, this weekend looks to give us much of the same as there aren’t many matchups between top teams, but potentially some surprises will divide the contenders from pretenders.
My picks took a very minor step back toward contending with a 6-4 performance. Had I known that Virginia QB Brennan Armstrong wasn’t playing, I would’ve gotten that as well, but I pick these games on Thursday night and consider them locked in at that point. Overall, my record sits at 50-65.
The top commenter prize goes to Ukedadnole who went 8-2 as one of you continues to embarrass me each week.
Reminder that all lines come from Tallysight.com.
The slate kicks off with a big one as two of the Big Ten’s best battle in the Horseshoe. Unfortunately for the Spartans, the sportsbooks don’t think it’ll be all that close... and I agree with them. If you listened to the Seminole Wrap podcast this week (you should, it’s fun — rate, review, subscribe), I told you that Ohio State is becoming my pick for the team most likely to win the title outside of Georgia and most likely to take them down. Their offense has been unstoppable this season with the nation’s best 46.3 points per game. QB CJ Stroud should be in New York for the Heisman ceremony thanks in large part to the three receivers he gets to throw to that will all be playing on Sundays down the road. Across the field, Michigan State has had an incredible season on the back of RB Kenneth Walker III. The problem? The Spartans have the worst (truly, 130th out of 130) pass defense in FBS. They average allowing just under 330 yards per game through the air. That average is going up this weekend.
Prediction: Ohio State -19.5
- Iowa State (+3.5) at No. 13 Oklahoma (Noon ET, FOX)
Ahh Oklahoma. You played with fire for far too long. They escaped danger seemingly every week in the early portion of the season, but those games laid the groundwork for the eventual collapse that came last week in Waco. Baylor — who is now ahead of the Sooners in the rankings — dominated the second half and ended OU’s CFP dreams. Now, they’ll head back home and host an Iowa State team that has disappointed this season though they’re playing better lately. The one place the Cyclones have struggled is on the road, but I’m going to ride with the letdown of the Sooners from last week loss.
Prediction: Iowa State +3.5
- No. 10 Wake Forest (+4.5) at Clemson (Noon ET, ESPN)
Wake’s outside chance to sneak into the playoffs appears alive and well with many of the teams ahead of them playing each other, but they lack a signature win and there really isn’t one left on the schedule. Last week’s victory over NC State is a great start. Clemson will add to that and a potential matchup with Pitt in the ACC title game could help them get there. I know Clemson is down but the name still carries weight. If you need proof of that, check the line. I’ve fallen for this countless times where I don’t think the line makes sense and it blows up in my face, but you guys know I’m done with Clemson.
Prediction: Wake Forest +4.5
- Florida State (+1.5) at Boston College (Noon ET, ACCN)
Here’s another I gave on the Seminole Wrap podcast (rate, review, subscribe). I think I locked in earlier this week at 2.5, but I like Florida State here. I don’t know what to make of Boston College as they now have QB Phil Jurkovec back after a long absence. He looked great last week in a rout of Georgia Tech with no signs of rust, but that has to come eventually right? Plus, the Noles have really played well with a healthy Jordan Travis. His confidence has to be at an all-time high so I’m riding with him and the FSU legend (trying to make this happen) Jermaine Johnson.
Prediction: Florida State +1.5
- No. 21 Arkansas (+21.5) at No. 2 Alabama (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
I’ll keep this one simple because my best context for these two teams is that they each played LSU over the last two weeks far too close. The fun result is an Alabama loss because it sets up a potential 6-way tie for the SEC West crown, which is just so perfect. But it’s Alabama and I’m not buying that.
Prediction: Alabama -21.5
- Nebraska (+8.5) at No. 15 Wisconsin (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
When did Wisconsin get good again? Last I remember the Badgers, Notre Dame was running up and down Soldier Field like it was 7-on-7. But they’ve clearly regrouped and are now back in the top 15. Believe it or not, they did it through the classic Wisconsin formula of running the ball (12th in the nation) and defense (2nd). Not too bad, all things considered. They now get to host a Nebraska team that just fired its offensive coaching staff so Scott Frost can save his own job. The timing on that move is odd because they’ve only had close losses lately and gave Ohio State a great game. I think Wisconsin wins, but I’m expecting Nebraska to continue that streak of close losses.
Prediction: Nebraska +8.5
- SMU (+11.5) at No. 5 Cincinnati (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Cincinnati feels like the team the committee is searching for reasons to keep out. The Bearcats have tallied one loss across the last two seasons — a 24-21 Sugar Bowl against Georgia that the Bulldogs rallied from a two-score fourth quarter deficit to win. I understand these teams can’t be considered beyond this season, but what more can the Bearcats do to earn respect? They went on the road and thoroughly handled Notre Dame and Indiana — they’re two power-five opponents — and haven’t really been pushed otherwise.
Enter SMU though. The Mustangs feature my favorite name in college football at quarterback in Tanner Mordecai (pick up a lax stick bro) and are fun to watch. They had a two game slide on the road against Houston and Memphis but rebounded in a big way against UCF last week. I don’t know if the Mustangs can win but they can certainly run with the Bearcats if they aren’t clicking at 100%.
Prediction: SMU +11.5
- Virginia (+14.5) at No. 18 Pittsburgh (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
It’s like deja vu all over again. No word out of Virginia on the official status of QB Brennan Armstrong. He missed last week’s game (see my whining above) with a rib injury, but Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi says he fully expects to see him out there this week and so will I. Armstrong has had this Cavaliers offense humming this season and I expect them to give the Panthers all they can handle if he’s in there.
Prediction: Virginia +14.5
- No. 11 Baylor (PK) at Kansas State (5:30 p.m. ET, FS1)
It’s a fun spot for me here. Kansas State was one of my early season darlings as they felt underrated in many of their early contests, but they faded after three straight losses to Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, and Iowa State. Don’t look now though as they’re back in my good graces with four straight wins. On the other side, Baylor has become one of my favorite late season teams as QB Gerry Bohanon has found his stride. K-State at home feels like the tiebreaker here, but I’m riding with my heart and (potential LSU head coach) Dave Aranda.
- No. 3 Oregon (+3.5) at No. 23 Utah (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
Quack! The Ducks seemingly can’t be stopped as they’ve rolled through the Pac-12 pretty seamlessly (yes, Stanford beat them but bad calls and it clearly hasn’t mattered). Utah was the game many circled earlier in the season as the spot they could fall, but the Utes are coming off a pretty disappointing performance against a pretty bad Arizona team last week. This feels like Oregon continues its waddle (get it) toward the playoffs, but I also expect to look up Saturday night and to see fans rushing the field in Salt Lake City.
Prediction: Utah -3.5